Peak Mallard Numbers, Historically Speaking

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Peak Mallard Numbers, Historically Speaking

Postby Barnacle » Tue Feb 07, 2017 10:53 pm

First, hello to the Kansas forum. I've been lurking here for a few days from Alabama.

Planning a trip to South Central Kansas for next season. Wanting a change of scenery. We want to plan our trip around the mallard migration. Obviously, no one can predict the weather or flight patterns, but I'm curious what time of the season the mallard population has been the greatest, historically. I've read mid-late January, but I thought I'd ask here. Just trying to give myself a rough idea of when to try and plan the trip. Appreciate your thoughts!
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Re: Peak Mallard Numbers, Historically Speaking

Postby cluckmeister » Wed Feb 08, 2017 12:06 am

Man that's a tough question to answer, its so dependent on the weather north of us in Nebraska and the Dakotas. The peak could happen anytime during December. Other issues are cold weather and freeze up. 3 nights of calm 20 degree temps will freeze most of our marshes and ponds that time of year and the birds head to the rivers and big lakes or go south. Kansas is a crap shoot state in all honesty and as a saying that's well known here in Kansas goes. What is here today, may be gone tomorrow!
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Re: Peak Mallard Numbers, Historically Speaking

Postby Barnacle » Wed Feb 08, 2017 9:09 am

cluckmeister wrote:Man that's a tough question to answer, its so dependent on the weather north of us in Nebraska and the Dakotas. The peak could happen anytime during December. Other issues are cold weather and freeze up. 3 nights of calm 20 degree temps will freeze most of our marshes and ponds that time of year and the birds head to the rivers and big lakes or go south. Kansas is a crap shoot state in all honesty and as a saying that's well known here in Kansas goes. What is here today, may be gone tomorrow!


I was afraid of this answer! You're telling me that Kansas is no different than anywhere else? I thought it was a "waterfowl mecca"!? :lol3: (if you can't tell, I've read some of your posts)

Anyway, it's looking like the 2nd/3rd week of December.
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Re: Peak Mallard Numbers, Historically Speaking

Postby cluckmeister » Wed Feb 08, 2017 5:21 pm

Barnacle, if you've read some of my posts then you know that I absolutely hate to see fellow hunters deceived by our State Tourism Dept, they could care less about anything but bringing bucks into the state of Kanas. If you would PM any of our more active state members, Mudpack for one, Im sure they would agree on the subject. If you're like me and don't have a money tree in the backyard, you want value for your money spent. If you can plan your trip a week before the actual departure date you're far better off, closely watch our weather for 2 weeks before your trip and also the weather in Nebraska during the time period. As for bird populations the http://ksoutdoors.com/ has updates all season long and at times can be helpful ,some areas are more reliable than others on the populations. And finally the perhaps most important thing to watch is the amount of rainfall the different areas of Kansas gets from June 1st on. Hunting in Kansas, yep its a real crapshoot every year, even for us locals
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Re: Peak Mallard Numbers, Historically Speaking

Postby Barnacle » Wed Feb 08, 2017 5:55 pm

cluckmeister wrote:Barnacle, if you've read some of my posts then you know that I absolutely hate to see fellow hunters deceived by our State Tourism Dept, they could care less about anything but bringing bucks into the state of Kanas. If you would PM any of our more active state members, Mudpack for one, Im sure they would agree on the subject. If you're like me and don't have a money tree in the backyard, you want value for your money spent. If you can plan your trip a week before the actual departure date you're far better off, closely watch our weather for 2 weeks before your trip and also the weather in Nebraska during the time period. As for bird populations the http://ksoutdoors.com/ has updates all season long and at times can be helpful ,some areas are more reliable than others on the populations. And finally the perhaps most important thing to watch is the amount of rainfall the different areas of Kansas gets from June 1st on. Hunting in Kansas, yep its a real crapshoot every year, even for us locals


Thanks for the honest and thoughtful response. :thumbsup:
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Re: Peak Mallard Numbers, Historically Speaking

Postby cluckmeister » Wed Feb 08, 2017 6:16 pm

Youre entirely welcome, good luck, let us know how you do next year
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Re: Peak Mallard Numbers, Historically Speaking

Postby mudpack » Thu Feb 09, 2017 8:42 pm

In a "normal" year, mid- to late-December would be a good time here.
As Cluck said, we won't know what the conditions will be until the time arrives. Your dates are as good a guess at this point as any other time, so I'd stay with that schedule BUT be prepared to cancel if we are frozen up at that time. Late January can also be very good in certain areas IF we are frozen and IF the birds are here. This year, the mallards/birds were NOT here the last half of January, but they are certainly here NOW!
Check back with us the first part of December and we'll try to give you accurate intelligence. :thumbsup:
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Re: Peak Mallard Numbers, Historically Speaking

Postby Theduckguru » Thu Feb 09, 2017 11:58 pm

You really don't want to hunt during the peak because you will be dealing with a lot of educated birds. You want to hunt the migration prior to the peak.
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Re: Peak Mallard Numbers, Historically Speaking

Postby cluckmeister » Fri Feb 10, 2017 12:22 am

mudpack wrote:In a "normal" year, mid- to late-December would be a good time here.
As Cluck said, we won't know what the conditions will be until the time arrives. Your dates are as good a guess at this point as any other time, so I'd stay with that schedule BUT be prepared to cancel if we are frozen up at that time. Late January can also be very good in certain areas IF we are frozen and IF the birds are here. This year, the mallards/birds were NOT here the last half of January, but they are certainly here NOW!
Check back with us the first part of December and we'll try to give you accurate intelligence. :thumbsup:



Mud, I think those ones that are here now are the same ones that flew right on thru the state during those first zero days we had in Mid December, they are headed back north with the widgeons, gadwalls and blue bills that have been on the little lake across from my home for the last week. :lol3:
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Re: Peak Mallard Numbers, Historically Speaking

Postby Ramblingman » Fri Feb 10, 2017 6:24 am

I concur with all that has been posted but if I had my druthers, I would take Veteran's Day to T-Day over December or January Everytime (provided marshes have water). That's just my sweet spot for where I hunt. If I could only hunt 2 weeks a season it would be those.
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Re: Peak Mallard Numbers, Historically Speaking

Postby mudpack » Fri Feb 10, 2017 7:14 am

Ramblingman wrote:I concur with all that has been posted but if I had my druthers, I would take Veteran's Day to T-Day over December or January Everytime (provided marshes have water). That's just my sweet spot for where I hunt. If I could only hunt 2 weeks a season it would be those.

If the OP was after "ducks", I would agree with you, Rambler. But he specifically said he's targeting mallards. Historically, they don't start showing up in my bag (or on my marsh) in significant numbers until post-Thanksgiving.
For the same reason, I think cluck's advice is solid, the OP wants to hunt at "peak mallard numbers", not "when the greenheads are uneducated". If the mallards are arriving on the marsh in peak numbers, you'll have the maximum numbers of uneducated birds.
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Re: Peak Mallard Numbers, Historically Speaking

Postby MinneKans » Fri Feb 10, 2017 8:29 am

December > November
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Re: Peak Mallard Numbers, Historically Speaking

Postby John O`Neal » Mon Feb 13, 2017 3:08 pm

Barnacle wrote:
cluckmeister wrote:Man that's a tough question to answer, its so dependent on the weather north of us in Nebraska and the Dakotas. The peak could happen anytime during December. Other issues are cold weather and freeze up. 3 nights of calm 20 degree temps will freeze most of our marshes and ponds that time of year and the birds head to the rivers and big lakes or go south. Kansas is a crap shoot state in all honesty and as a saying that's well known here in Kansas goes. What is here today, may be gone tomorrow!


I was afraid of this answer! You're telling me that Kansas is no different than anywhere else? I thought it was a "waterfowl mecca"!? :lol3: (if you can't tell, I've read some of your posts)

Anyway, it's looking like the 2nd/3rd week of December.


This subject always produces a lively discussion with a lot of interesting input . We touched on it back when they were doing the zone surveys and establishing the seasonal frameworks. Back then I used my KC Star subscription to access their archives so I could look back at the duck numbers published weekly by the KDWP. I looked back over a five year period and found wide variations in when the peak migration occured . The numbers reflected there are definite differences in the migration peaks between the central part of the state and the eastern areas . Just a couple seasons back the the SE zone didnt see peak duck counts until the last two weeks of January . The following season that Peak occured almost a month earlier . Like Cluck and Mud have said " It all depends " . One consistency that has been well documented by the USFWS is that over the course of the last sixty years is that the peak migration through the state of Kansas is occuring a month later in early December as opposed to early November. Like it has been pointed out it can be a crap shoot but I think your choice of 2nd/3rd week of December is a good one . Baranacle If you join us in Kansas I hope you have a great hunt and enjoy some warm Kansas hospitality . We have the ducks . :thumbsup:
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Re: Peak Mallard Numbers, Historically Speaking

Postby cluckmeister » Mon Feb 13, 2017 4:36 pm

One consistency that has been well documented by the USFWS is that over the course of the last sixty years is that the peak migration through the state of Kansas is occuring a month later in early December as opposed to early November.

Id say that's all due to farming practices that have changed as recently as 20 years ago. I remember in the early 80s always taking the week of Thanksgiving off and shooting lots of mallards. I also think the migration corridors have shifted east due to the 3 year drought we suffered a few years back. A buddy and I were discussing the changes over the last 40 years in both duck and goose hunting in Kansas. How in the 70s if a hunter saw a flight of Canada geese he was darned lucky and the limit was one, the snow geese all traveled thru the eastern part of the state and Brown County lake was the best place to shoot a Snow, oh, and White Fronts ,what the heck were they, Now we have Snows all over the state, I see more Canadas than ducks on most days and white fronts fly over my house when they migrate.
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Re: Peak Mallard Numbers, Historically Speaking

Postby Ramblingman » Mon Feb 13, 2017 7:07 pm

All good points. I would contest that the peak being referred to is not so much of the highest count of mallards in the state, as it is concentrations of mallards in large numbers, typically in highly visible areas. If you take all of the mallards hanging out on marshes, ponds, sloughs and backwaters that are really building throughout the mid to late November timeframe, and push them onto larger bodies of water that hold waterfowl during the freeze thaw regime and dietary shift that occurs early to mid-December, I think it isn't as much of a peak as the experts think. By no means am I saying that early November is peak, not even mid November, but I am saying that the best mallard hunting is not necessarily the peak,....at least in my experience. :hammer:
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Re: Peak Mallard Numbers, Historically Speaking

Postby mudpack » Wed Feb 22, 2017 8:45 pm

Ramblingman wrote:All good points. I would contest that the peak being referred to is not so much of the highest count of mallards in the state, as it is concentrations of mallards in large numbers, typically in highly visible areas. If you take all of the mallards hanging out on marshes, ponds, sloughs and backwaters that are really building throughout the mid to late November timeframe, and push them onto larger bodies of water that hold waterfowl during the freeze thaw regime and dietary shift that occurs early to mid-December, I think it isn't as much of a peak as the experts think. By no means am I saying that early November is peak, not even mid November, but I am saying that the best mallard hunting is not necessarily the peak,....at least in my experience. :hammer:

And good points there, Ramblingman. The KDWP can't count what they can't see. :thumbsup:

I also agree that some truly memorable hunts have been made just before and just after peak mallard migrations in this state....but not much before and not much after. :biggrin:
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Re: Peak Mallard Numbers, Historically Speaking

Postby Yuchi1 » Fri Mar 17, 2017 2:01 pm

Check each week for where the contintntal snow line >12" is located. The migration of mallards will be situated just south of it.
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Re: Peak Mallard Numbers, Historically Speaking

Postby cluckmeister » Sun Mar 19, 2017 3:22 pm

Yuchi1 wrote:Check each week for where the contintntal snow line >12" is located. The migration of mallards will be situated just south of it.


Id say that's only partially true, it can get 10 degrees for 5 days and no snow and the ducks wont be there no matter where the snow is if everythings froze up solid
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Re: Peak Mallard Numbers, Historically Speaking

Postby Yuchi1 » Sun Mar 19, 2017 10:07 pm

Agreed, however if they can get to open water, they will stay, food access permitting. Have a photo in the shop (01/1996) of ~250K birds roosting on a borrow pit lake in Kearney, Nebraska adjacent to the Platte river (which was still open in places) and with access to the corn fields east of town. It was -15 degrees that day and had been in that range for ~2 weeks which illustrates to me the hardiness of large race Canada geese & red leg mallards.
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Re: Peak Mallard Numbers, Historically Speaking

Postby cluckmeister » Sun Mar 19, 2017 11:11 pm

Yuchi1 wrote:Agreed, however if they can get to open water, they will stay, food access permitting. Have a photo in the shop (01/1996) of ~250K birds roosting on a borrow pit lake in Kearney, Nebraska adjacent to the Platte river (which was still open in places) and with access to the corn fields east of town. It was -15 degrees that day and had been in that range for ~2 weeks which illustrates to me the hardiness of large race Canada geese & red leg mallards.


The Platte river basin is a totally different story, since its a primary staging area. In general if 90% of the water in Kansas is frozen 90% of the ducks have gone south. Geese on the other hand are a different story
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Re: Peak Mallard Numbers, Historically Speaking

Postby Yuchi1 » Mon Mar 20, 2017 3:21 am

The situation was until New Year's Eve they weren't there. South Dakota was hit by a blizzard the last couple days of December with up to 2' of snow there and extending down into the northern part of Nebraska. We had only a skiff of snow on the ground and Kearney was as far south as those birds went, for the season.

The key being open water as with Sooner Lake (~60 miles SE of Wichita), and it's power plant warm water discharge was absolutely covered in mallards for the few days last January we had single digits and even colder up your way.

Soon as the temperature moderated, those birds headed right back your way.

IMO, while extreme temperatures causing freezes of available water can and will usually
move birds, 6-8" of snow on the ground for 3+ days will move them every time even w/o open water ice up.
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Re: Peak Mallard Numbers, Historically Speaking

Postby mudpack » Sun Mar 26, 2017 4:16 pm

Lots of different opinions on your question, Barnacle. Perhaps your best bet would be to narrow your chosen hunting area(s) down and then ask the Kansas Migratory Game Bird Program Manager what the historical data is for that/those particular area(s).
Most of us have opinions based on what we see, and when we see it, only on the marshes we visit...and those can be pretty limited.
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